It’s the middle of the school year, and let’s just say things are starting to get a little messy... literally. Slowly, the crisp clean notebooks, binders, and folders you started out with are turning into untidy heaps as you stuff them with all sorts of miscellaneous papers. History worksheets are now somehow haphazardly tucked into your math notebook, while your old math tests are feeling a little out of place in an English folder. Oh, and the planner that you wrote every single little “to-do” in at the beginning of the year? Long gone and forgotten, sadly—probably crying in the dusty corners of your cluttered locker.
But disorganization isn’t your biggest problem—your grades are at stake here! Those homework assignments you decided just not to submit because you just couldn’t find are totally taking hits at your grade. Let’s not even mention that research paper you completely forgot about and how many points your teacher said would be taken off for every week late. Worst of all, it just keeps adding up!
It’s time to break free from the cycle of chaos that disorganization creates and get back on track with your grades to end the year with a nice GPA. Her Campus has the four ways you’re letting disorganization affect your grades as well as what you can do to stop them:
Messy Habit #1: You’re constantly losing things you need!
Cue Britney Spears’s most famous single: “Oops, I
did lost it again!” Just kidding. But you probably do feel like you want to scream and shout (and let it all out) every time you can’t find a darn pencil or when you lose that handout you just got.
Mid-semester cleaning: Take all your notebooks, folders, and binders and start organizing what subjects go together. Organizing them into piles on a table makes this a simple task, and after you’re done, you can sort within each subject much more easily. Anything that you don’t necessarily need at the moment but you might need to refer to later should stay in organized, labeled folders at home.
Labeled folders: Peggy Men, a a recent grad of Niagara Christian Community of Schools suggests using an accordion folder that’s divided into tabs with each of her subjects and a homework section. She says, “I have all my poetry stuff in my English tab in my accordion folder [for home]. After I have my poetry test, I’ll transfer all my poetry papers to the binder, and my [in-school] folder will be empty for the next unit, which is Hamlet. This is a great way to save things such as for finals later on, but not have to carry overwhelming amounts of papers in school.
Make a commitment: After you’ve sorted out everything, make it a point to always put and write things in their properly labeled folder, notebook, or binder from here on out. Even if it takes an extra 10 seconds to put the math worksheet you just got into your math folder instead of into the black hole of your backpack, do it. It won’t be time wasted, and you won’t have any reason to misplace or lose things anymore!
Stylish supplies: In terms of school supplies such as pens, pencils, and erasers, definitely invest in a cute pencil case. This way, you won’t have to keep bugging the person sitting next to you for a spare pen.
Let’s get digital: When working on your computer, Page Sheffield, senior at Mason High School, recommends creating separate folders for each class that you’re taking. And since you can create folders within folders, you can also organize the content within those folders by quarter/semester and by units in class. She added, “I always make sure to save my work to my personal computer and a USB. Sometimes, just to be sure, I even email the document to myself. Saving documents in more than one location takes seconds, and it’s definitely worth it.” Google Drive is also very helpful if you’re typing up a document because it has an easy-to-use interface like Microsoft Word and it auto-saves everything you type as you type it.
Messy Habit #2: You’re lost in your own notes and you can’t even read your own handwriting!
Do your notes read like hieroglyphics to you? Are you having trouble figuring out what stuff is notes and what stuff is homework? Do you find yourself lost on exactly what to pay attention to when you’re trying to study because your notes are so confusing? If so, then you’ve been found guilty of being a disorganized delinquent. Your offense? Binder blunders and notebook neglect.
Create your own shorthand: First, make sure that when you write notes, they’re legible. Your handwriting doesn’t have to be printer perfect, but at least make sure that at least you can read it. Remember that notes are supposed to be your shorthand version of what was said that was important – not an exact transcript of what your teacher said in class! You can create your own abbreviations for words you might commonly use. Think texting abbreviations. This is the one of the few exceptions when it’s okay to break grammar rules!
Color-code: This is another fun idea and especially helps in memorization. Different colors, either by highlighting or by using different colored pens, can be used to emphasize and organize certain things in your notes. For example, in history, you might write dates and names in pme color, and your bulleted details in another color. In English, you might highlight different literary devices in respectively different colors. You can use sticky note strips to mark and section out different topics/units covered in class or to note your most important notes.
Notes don’t have to be just words: Webs, charts, and graphs can be really useful in math and science, while outlines are great for subjects like English and history.
Dates aren’t just for history class: Always date your notes and give them a heading. Keeping your notes in date order will help keep you from getting lost when you go back to them, while giving them headings allows you to go back to specific topics covered in class.
Messy Habit #3: Your room at home or study space has become an obstacle course!
... And a battleground. Let your poor mother win for once and attack your room instead of her poor heart every time she has to walk into your room.
Find and create the perfect study space: It is so important to have an area dedicated to homework and studying at home! Think of it as a sacred sanctuary for school. Pick a spot that’s generally free of distractions and noise —somewhere you can focus. Most likely, it’ll be a corner in your room with a desk. It’s highly recommended that you don’t do work in bed since your mind tends to associate it with sleep more often than schoolwork. You can decorate this space to your liking; motivational and inspirational mementos, pictures, and quotes posted around are definitely a good idea.
Always be ready: Make sure to keep backup supplies and schoolwork to keep at home organized at your desk and in its drawers. This is totally dependent on how your station is set up, so sort things to how it fits your personal space best!
Remember the clean-up song: Now, make sure the area around this personal study space is clean and organized as well. Seeing clutter, piles of laundry, and random stuff strewn about can subconsciously increase stress and add on to the feeling of being overwhelmed. When everything is in it’s place, you have free space in your head to concentrate on schoolwork rather than worry about the mess around you.
Phew. Now you can breathe, study, and get productive! And Mom can catch a breath too.
Messy Habit #4: You keep forgetting or missing deadlines!
“Okay, please hand in your final papers on my desk before we start,” your teacher reminds the class. You gulp. Paper? What paper?
Yikes! Nothing is worse than just downright completely forgetting to do something. Sure, you thought it was so important that it wouldn’t be possible for you to forget it, right? Wrong. We’re all so busy and going from class to class and thinking about school events and our social lives can all just cause that assignment your teacher mentioned to slowly creep into the back of your mind.
My handy dandy planner: It’s time to find Mr. Planner again. Yes, that oh-so trusty friend you’ve ignored in the dusty corners of your locker. Lauren Anmar, a junior at Portage Central High School, says, “Having a planner keeps me organized. I keep it with me all day at school, and I write down assignments, test dates, and deadlines as soon as my teachers mention them. Then, when I get home, I refer back to my planner to see what I need to get done!” If you know work or events you have ahead of time, don’t hesitate to jot them down even if they’re in the somewhat farther future. They’ll be good reminders as you occasionally flip through to check what’s coming up. Peggy also suggests keeping a full calendar in your room—perhaps a desk or wall one. She uses this to log social activities, super important deadlines, applications, and extracurriculars. Breaking down larger projects or papers into smaller assignments in your planner is also an excellent way of keeping on top of everything.
Let technology be your friend: Despite the many bad distractions technology might give us, it can be used for good too! Robin Meiser loves using her iPhone’s Reminders app. You can set “to-do’s” for different days and times, and it’ll even notify you when you want it to. She says, “I can organize my things to do by school work or personal, and it’s very simple and syncs to iCloud.” If you don’t have an iPhone, many other smartphones have similar apps to help you keep track of things that need to be done and their deadlines.
Hannah Orenstein, a junior at NYU, also recommends the Stickies app for your laptop. She says, “I'm always on my laptop and rarely remember to check a physical planner, so I keep track of all my assignments and deadlines with the Stickies app on my computer. When my assignments are right in front of me and easy to check, they're easier to remember.”
Sure, bad habits may be hard to break, but they’re not impossible! Do you have any particular organization tips that work for you? Comment below!